Battershall Court

The bells of St. James

William Battershall Stratford-Perth Archives

Battershall Court is a short street named for William Battershall, who lived for 50 years on a farm on the west side of Mornington Street. His house still stands, at 362 Mornington St. Upon his death at age 83 in 1906, he willed to the city the part of his farm that today is known as Battershall Park. He was a benefactor of some renown because of the unusual and detailed instructions in his will. His farm, in Ellice Township, was not within the Stratford city limits at that time

In addition to the land for the park, he $4,000 to provide suits of clothes for children between six and 11 years of age, whose parents were "poor but not paupers." He did not specify the difference between poor and paupers the two. The clothes were to be "cheap and good," and their purpose was to enable their recipients to attend Sunday School.

The clothes were to be distributed annually on the anniversary of Mr. Battershall's birthday. If, after receiving the clothes, the children did not attend Sunday School, they could not partake of the next year's distribution. Another clause in the will provided $2,000 to be invested for Christmas distribution: "I direct the mayor of the said city, when distributing the said bread and beef, to give the best cuts to the oldest people. "

Battershall also $500 towards the purchase of a chime of bells.

* To hear the Bells click on picture.

That directive sparked the completion of the tower on St. James Anglican Church by September 1909, and a chime of eleven bells, complete with a tower clock, was installed. On Sunday, Sept. 26, 1909, the Bishop of Huron, David Williams, dedicated the bells. He observed in his sermon: "The tower will remain a silent beauty . . . forever a silent unchanging joy. But the bells are different. They will compel your attention. They will not allow you to pass them. They will ring with you in sorrow and in joy."

The "best-developed boy of one year, six years and 10 years" was to share in prizes at the North Perth Agricultural Fair, those prizes drawn from the interest from a $500 bequest from Mr. Battershall. Another bequest of $500 was to provide newspapers for those in the hospital, the refuge and the jail. He left $1,000 to the Stratford Hospital Trust to be used for patients in the public ward, to supply them "with oatmeal, cornmeal, milk and sugar."

He made many other bequests in his will. Some of his money was given away before he died. After his death, it was discovered he had made more bequests than he had money to cover them, and the court was asked to determine how the money should be distributed. When it was before the Toronto courts, a Toronto newspaper said the Battershall will was "as strange a document as was ever drawn up by a lawyer." With notes from Stanford Dingman